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The Price Of Oil Is Crashing Again, And That Is Very, Very Bad News For The U.S. Economy

Oil Price Crashing - Public DomainThis wasn’t supposed to happen.  The price of oil was supposed to start going back up, and this would have brought much needed relief to economically-depressed areas of North America that are heavily dependent on the energy industry.  Instead, the price of oil is crashing again, and that is really bad news for a U.S. economy that is already mired in the worst “recovery” since 1949.  On Monday, U.S. oil was down almost four percent, and for a brief time it actually fell below 40 dollars a barrel.  Overall, the price of oil has fallen a staggering 21 percent since June 8th.  In less than two months, the “oil rally” that so many were pinning their hopes on has been totally wiped out, and if the price of oil continues to stay this low it is going to have very seriously implications for our economy moving forward.

One of the big reasons why the price of oil has been declining is because the OPEC nations continue to pump oil at very high levels.  The following comes from CNBC

Production in July by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries likely rose to its highest in recent history, a Reuters survey found on Friday, as Iraq pumped more and Nigeria squeezed out additional crude exports despite militant attacks on oil installations.

Top OPEC exporter Saudi Arabia also kept output close to a record high, the survey found, as it met seasonally higher domestic demand and focused on maintaining market share instead of trimming supply to boost prices.

These countries don’t know if or when the price of oil will eventually rebound, but what they do know is that they desperately need cash in order to keep their sputtering economies going.  Many of these nations are already experiencing significant economic downturns, and substantially reducing oil revenues at this time would definitely not help things.

Here in North America, oil production costs tend to be higher, and so when the price of oil crashes we tend to see companies shut down rigs.  But when rigs get shut down, that means that good paying jobs are lost.

During the first four months of 2016, approximately 35,000 jobs were lost at Texas energy companies.  Globally, more than 290,000 energy jobs have been lost since the price of oil started falling back in 2014.

And even though there was hope that energy companies would add jobs as the price of oil started rebounding during the second quarter, it turned out that the job losses just kept on coming

Energy companies continued to cut thousands of jobs during the second quarter, even though many chief executives are now voicing optimism that the oil market crash is ending and a rebound in drilling is afoot.

Although the heads of Halliburton Co. , Schlumberger Ltd. and other major firms forecast higher crude prices and a return to U.S. shale fields when discussing earnings this week, those companies and others disclosed another 15,000 industry layoffs.

Personally, I have quite a few members of my own extended family that live in areas that are heavily dependent on the energy industry, and three of them have lost their jobs so far this year.

And these are precisely the sort of good paying middle class jobs that we cannot afford to lose.  In order to having a thriving middle class, you need lots of middle class jobs.  Unfortunately, those kinds of jobs are going away, and the middle class in the United States is systematically dying.

If the price of oil keeps going lower, that will mean even more jobs losses for the energy industry, and that will be very bad news for the U.S. economy.

In addition, many of these energy companies are getting into very serious debt problems.  Delinquency rates on corporate debt are already the highest that they have been since the last recession as firms struggle to pay their bills.  Of course some of them have already gone belly up, and this has pushed default rates on corporate debt to the highest level since the last financial crisis.

At a price of 40 dollars a barrel, most oil companies in the United States are not profitable in the long-term.  The longer the price of oil stays down in this neighborhood, the more energy companies we will see go bankrupt.  At this point it is just a waiting game.

Also, it is important to keep in mind that Wall Street is very heavily exposed to the energy industry.  Just as subprime mortgages brought down quite a few financial institutions back in 2008, so this time around it is inevitable that the oil crash will claim a fair number of victims as well.

As the global economy has slowed down, the demand for oil has decreased.  And at this point, even the U.S. economy appears to be seriously slowing down.  U.S. GDP only grew at about a one percent rate for the first half of 2016, and the rate of homeownership in this country just hit the lowest level ever recorded.

In the mainstream financial media, there is a lot of hopeful talk about a potential turnaround for the energy industry, but most of that talk appears to be just wishful thinking.

To me, about the only thing that could push the price of oil back to where U.S. oil companies need it to be in the short-term would be a major war in the Middle East.  And of course that is definitely always a possibility considering who is running things in Washington.  But absent that, it is hard to see the price of oil getting back to 70 or 80 dollars a barrel any time soon.

So that means that we are likely to see more job losses, more debt delinquencies and debt defaults, and more financial institutions getting into trouble due to their reckless exposure to the energy industry.

Corporate Debt Defaults Explode To Catastrophic Levels Not Seen Since The Last Financial Crisis

Boom - Public DomainIf a new financial crisis had already begun, we would expect to see corporate debt defaults skyrocket, and that is precisely what is happening.  As you will see below, corporate defaults are currently at the highest level that we have seen since 2009.  A wave of bankruptcies is sweeping the energy industry, but it isn’t just the energy industry that is in trouble.  In fact, the average credit rating for U.S. corporations is now lower than it was at any point during the last recession.  This is yet another sign that we are in the early chapters of a major league economic crisis.  Yesterday I talked about how 23.2 percent of all Americans in their prime working years do not have a job right now, but today I am going to focus on the employers.  Big corporate giants all over America are in deep, deep financial trouble, and this is going to result in a tremendous wave of layoffs in the coming months.

We should rejoice that U.S. stocks have rebounded a bit in the short-term, but the euphoria in the markets is not doing anything to stop the wave of corporate defaults that is starting to hit Wall Street like a freight train.  Zero Hedge is reporting that we have not seen this many corporate defaults since the extremely painful year of 2009…

While many were looking forward to the weekend in last week’s holiday-shortened week for some overdue downtime, the CEOs of five, mostly energy, companies had nothing but bad news for their employees and shareholders: they had no choice but to throw in the towel and file for bankruptcy.

And, as Bloomberg reports, with last week’s five defaults, the 2016 to date total is now 31, the highest since 2009 when there were 42 company defaults, according to Standard & Poor’s. Four of the defaults in the week ended March 23 were by U.S. issuers including UCI Holdings Ltd. and Peabody Energy Corp., the credit rating company said.

And by all indications, what we have seen so far is just the beginning.  According to Wolf Richter, the average rating on U.S. corporate debt is already lower than it was at any point during the last financial crisis…

Credit rating agencies, such as Standard & Poor’s, are not known for early warnings. They’re mired in conflicts of interest and reluctant to cut ratings for fear of losing clients. When they finally do warn, it’s late and it’s feeble, and the problem is already here and it’s big.

So Standard & Poor’s, via a report by S&P Capital IQ, just warned about US corporate borrowers’ average credit rating, which at “BB,” and thus in junk territory, hit a record low, even “below the average we recorded in the aftermath of the 2008-2009 credit crisis.”

What all of this tells us is that we are in the early stages of an absolutely epic financial meltdown.

Meanwhile, we continue to get more indications that the real economy is slowing down significantly.  According to the Atlanta Fed, U.S. GDP growth for the first quarter is now expected to come in at just 0.6 percent, and Moody’s Analytics is projecting a similar number…

First-quarter growth is now tracking at just 0.9 percent, after new data showed surprising weakness in consumer spending and a wider-than-expected trade gap.

According to the CNBC/Moody’s Analytics rapid update, economists now see the sluggish growth pace based on already reported data, down from 1.4 percent last week.

Of course if the government was actually using honest numbers, people wouldn’t be talking about the potential start of a new recession.  Instead, they would be talking about the deepening of a recession that never ended.

We are in the terminal phase of the greatest debt bubble the world has ever experienced.  For decades, the United States has been running up government debt, corporate debt and consumer debt.  Our trade deficits have been bigger than anything the world has ever seen before, and our massively inflated standard of living was funded by an ever increasing pile of IOUs.  I love how Doug Noland described this in his recent piece

With U.S. officials turning their backs on financial excesses, Bubble Dynamics and unrelenting Current Account Deficits, I expected the world to lose its appetite for U.S. financial claims. After all, how long should the world be expected to trade real goods and services for endless U.S. IOUs?

As it turned out, rather than acting to discipline the profligate U.S. Credit system, the world acquiesced to Bubble Dynamics. No one was willing to be left behind. Along the way it was learned that large reserves of U.S. financial assets were integral to booming financial inflows and attendant domestic investment and growth. The U.S. has now run persistently large Current Account Deficits for going on 25 years.

Seemingly the entire globe is now trapped in a regime of unprecedented monetary and fiscal stimulus required to levitate a world with unmatched debt and economic imbalances. History has seen nothing comparable. And I would strongly argue that the consequences of Bubbles become much more problematic over time. The longer excesses persist the deeper the structural impairment.

As this bubble bursts, we are going to endure a period of adjustment unlike anything America has ever known before.  I talk about the pain coming to America in my new book entitled “The Rapture Verdict” which is currently the #1 new release in Christian eschatology on Amazon.com.  To be honest, I don’t know if any of us really understands the horror that is coming to this nation in the years ahead.  None of us have ever experienced anything similar to it, so we don’t really have a frame of reference to imagine what it will be like.

This spike in corporate debt defaults is a major league red flag.  Since the last financial crisis, our big corporations went on a massive debt binge, and now they are starting to pay the price.

We never seem to learn from the errors of the past.  Instead of learning our lessons the last time around, we just went out and made even bigger mistakes.

I am afraid that history is going to judge us rather harshly.

Those that are waiting for the next great financial crisis to begin can quit waiting, because it is already happening right in front of our eyes.

If you believe that the temporary rebound of U.S. stocks is somehow going to change the trajectory of where things are heading, you are going to end up deeply, deeply disappointed.

Finca Bayano

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